May 11 2009

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Obama’s On the Job Training

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Saturday used to be the great void in print journalism. A day devoted to soft news or page filler, sandwiched between the consequential work week news and the all important Sunday edition.  But in the age of Obama, Saturday now seems to be the day the Mainstreams dump news that doesn’t square with dominant narrative of inspired Obama change.

Consider this past Saturday’s Washington Post.

Right there on A1 was the blockbuster story regarding the Obama administration’s decision to revive Military Commissions to prosecute terrorists held at Gitmo.

Considering the fairly breathless coverage of Obama’s early Executive Orders regarding Gitmo – one Post scribe waxed on poetic describing the actions as a “swift and sudden end of an era” – this was fairly ground breaking stuff.1 Obama himself was a scathing critic of the Bush Administration’s policy on prosecuting detainees during the campaign, and as one of his first actions as President, obtained a 120 day suspension of the Commissions.

But in a significant policy change that is sure to outrage the Left, the Administration realized that civil courts may be unsuitable forums for trying terrorists. For those that found Obama’s first foray into terror detention, interrogation and prosecution temerarious at best, it is amusing to hear Obama officials – on background – say, “It looks a lot more difficult now than it did on January 20th.”2

The story on Military Commissions was complemented by a simply extraordinary Op-Ed by Jim Moran, the congressman who represents residents in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, just across the river from Washington proper. The congressman, citing George Washington and Robert E. Lee for flair no doubt, made the case for holding and trying terrorists in DC’s back yard, closer to the White House than the 9-11 plotters would have dared believe possible.3

And then there was Nancy Pelosi. Another A1 story adds color to the utter and colossal fecklessness of the Speaker in her impudent stance on enhanced interrogation techniques.

It is becoming clearer that Pelosi and other senior Democrats were not only aware of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation practices, but some Members were asking “whether the US was doing enough.”4

This is yet another, sad example of Tom Paine’s storied, “sunshine patriot.” If Members, including the Speaker, objected to US interrogation practices, it was their responsibility as a matter of principle to say so there and then. To do otherwise is craven, even for the low bar standards employed for Washington DC.

And, amid all the abuse heaped upon the Bush administration’s handling of foreign policy – particularly its reluctance to understand and engage bad actors around the globe –  comes an announcement from the Administration that it is renewing sanctions on Syria; specifically for supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and undermining international and US efforts to stabilize Iraq.5  Apparently the exuberance of the Gitmo proclamations hasn’t found its way to Near East Bureau at the Department of State…yet.

And some of that abuse heaped on the Bush administration domestically got a bucket of cold water this week as well. The Obama administration announced the resumption of a “virtual fence” on the US-Mexican border, “…send[ing] a powerful message of continuity with President George W. Bush…to secure the border…” and no doubt sending the “undocumented workers” lobby into a full frenzy.6 Whether the virtual fence is enough is another question entirely, but for the Obama administration to pick up where Bush left off is a statement in itself.

Alan Greenspan popularized “irrational exuberance” as a paradigm of boundless expectation in denial of facts and realities. It applies to politics as well as the stock market.

In taking charge in January, the Obama administration has taken criticism of its predecessor to absurdly new heights; even taking its rebukes to audiences abroad. It is unseemly of a candidate who promised unity.  It is unworthy of the Presidency that Obama was solemnly elected to serve.

The surety and purity of a stump speech will always give way to the grayer shades of governing consequence. More importantly, the maturity of an Administration is not measured by how quickly it overturns the policies of its predecessor, but by its commitment and understanding of the national interest and the policies that best serve it.

There were no terrorist attacks on American soil after 9-11-01.  That is only the best known successes of the Bush administration, but by no means the only one.

Just a fact for Team Obama to consider now that they are responsible for the national interest.

1. Washington Post, January 23, 2009

2. Washington Post, May 9, 2009

3. Ibid

4. Ibid

5. Ibid

6. Ibid, A3


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